Selected Articles from our
The C.A.S.H. Courier
ARTICLE from the Spring 2010 Issue
Illegal Laws - The Oxymoronic Nightmare Of Animal Activism!
By Peter Muller
There are a number of laws in the US that are primarily intended to put a
chilling effect on animal protection activism. These laws are judged by many
disinterested attorneys to be blatantly unconstitutional – yet they exist on
the federal level as well as state levels. They are tools for harassment and
intimidation. Most of them will not withstand a serious challenge in the
courts. Unfortunately, under our system of laws it is up to us, the intended
victims, to muster up the resources, time, effort and often personal
sacrifice to undo these laws.
The most notorious and destructive of these is the Federal Animal
Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) which, by its very terms, violates the
Under AETA you can be imprisoned for 10 years, if the offense results in
economic damage exceeding $100,000, and for 20 years if the offense results
in economic damage exceeding $1,000,000.
If you or your group is contemplating an action and the following
elements are present:
1) Interstate communication is involved (you send an announcement of your
demo or boycott to an AR-listserv, or call friends in neighboring states).
2) You intend to cause economic damage to your target company (boycotts,
advertisements, and demonstrations).
3) The target is an animal enterprise (any commercial or academic
enterprise that uses or sells animals or animal products).
Yet state cognates that often provide for even more severe penalties
exist in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia,
Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine,
Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana,
Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota,
Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota,
Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin
Under the Pennsylvania law, for example, you can get up to 40 years for
the same offense that gets you 20 years under the federal law.
Hunter harassment statutes exist in all 50 states, which most
activists concerned with hunting issues know, but there is also a federal
hunter harassment law. Many of the state laws prohibit speech directed at
hunters. This is a clear violation of the First Amendment.
The federal law (16 USC CHAPTER 72 - RECREATIONAL HUNTING SAFETY)
It is a violation of this section intentionally to engage in any physical
conduct that significantly hinders a lawful hunt.
What does that include: Playing a clarinet, waving a banner, singing
hymns? I don’t know of a single instance where someone was charged with the
federal law. What is its intent? To frighten activists into self-censorship?
Our attention was very recently called to a new twist in a proposed
change to the Idaho hunter harassment statute; the change provides not only
penalties for engaging a hunter afield with speech or physical action but to
communicate with a hunter at any time by phone, electronic means, or mail in
a manner that indicates our displeasure with hunting and is perceived by the
hunter as “intimidating.” House bill no. 531 (currently in the Resources and
Conservation Committee) accessible at http://www.legislature.idaho.gov/legislation/2010/H0531.pdf
states (in part):
No person shall:..
Harass, intimidate or threaten by any means including, but not limited
to, personal or written contact, or via telephone, email or website, any
person who is or was engaged in the lawful taking or control of fish or
Whenever a hunter feels intimidated by what’s on your website – you’ll go
to jail in Idaho.
The sponsors added a contradictory weasel-clause:
The conduct declared unlawful in this section does not include
constitutionally protected activity. Even though it clearly does do just
We can only pity the judge who is going to try to make sense of this
The “silliest” of these anti-animal-activists laws are perhaps the “food
disparagement” laws. In Wisconsin, if you sell tofu and tell people that
cheese stinks, you’re in serious trouble:
§96.03 states (in part)
No market development program may be funded under a marketing order which
makes use of false or unwarranted claims on behalf of an affected commodity
or disparages the quality, value, sale or use of any other agricultural
These laws are so silly and so blatantly against the first amendment
guarantee of freedom of speech that attempts to enforce them are rare.
Whenever there is an attempt to enforce them they provide endless material
for comedians throughout the world. The laws are invariably held to be
unconstitutional – but not before costing the defendants tens of thousand of
dollars in legal fees. Yet these laws exist in Alabama, Arizona, Colorado,
Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska,
North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin.
We need a federal ombudsman who will bring court challenges against laws
that are clearly in violation of the constitution to make it unnecessary for
individuals to spend time and resources to undo laws that should never have
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